Finding Circlestone

Ancient Ruins

The Searcher’s Tale

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I first learned about Circlestone from stories The Searcher told during my first backpack into the eastern Superstition Mountains, on the Tule trail, April 2005.  I described this in “Riding from Pine Creek to the Reavis Valley” where the Searcher described a stone circle, overgrown with Alligator Juniper, on the slopes of Mound Mountain.  He pointed south toward a peak and foothills that rose from the valley floor and said, “follow the fire trail east from the southern Reavis Ranch valley.”  There were strange happenings associated with Circlestone (as he called it) and he’d never taken the time to go there.  “There is a book full of stories.”  I eventually sought out Circlestone on the web and in books, but after I found it on my own using only the Searcher’s directions and advice from friends met on the way.

Sunset from Castle Dome

Backpacking with my sister

In 2006 I explored Circlestone twice along with my sister, Diane, who accompanied me.  First for nine days early March 2006 using the Reavis Ranch trail from the north and the second for five days in November 2006, coming us the same trail from the south.  Our first trip was Diane’s first “real” backpack adventure and we took it slow with a camp at Castle Dome where there are flat areas and exceptional views.  Above, is the sunset from our second night (I camped the first night next to the car…we took it very, very sloooowwww).

Four Peaks Sunrise

Castle Dome

Then, there was morning of our third day.  Here is the Four Peaks Wilderness in the first rays of dawn.  These are green, rolling foothills of grass, low shrubs and a few juniper.  If you know where to look, there’s an unmarked trail to Reavis Falls (the highest waterfall in Arizona).  I found the trail and visited the falls on a later trip.

Castle Dome Sunrise

After enjoying the Four Peaks, you turn around and see Castle Dome in the morning light, as in this photograph.  Remember the same of the “dome”, because it is visible from the ultimate view from Circlestone.

Reavis Valley and White Mountain from the trail to Circlestone

The Trail to Circlestone

Our camp was in the Reavis Valley, one of the first sites along the creek coming from the north.  There were fantastic rock formations across the creek.  Not far from there, the land falls away into steepness and then Reavis Falls.   The Searcher told me about going that way, once.  There is no trail down to the falls overlook and deep canyon carved by the water.

This photograph, above, is from a lovely forest of pinyon trees that grow along the trail to Circlestone (described by the Searcher as rising from the southern Reavis Valley).  You can see the valley, just to the right, and a longer and steeper valley that rises from it up to White Mountain.  That way is the southern legs of Reavis Trail.  I have a movie clip from this same spot of the pinyons moving in the breeze and may post it at a later time.

All of the trail to Circlestone is a climb.  You pass over “Whiskey Spring”, named for a still kept there in the 1800’s and over a steep defile gouged from the rock.  The trail is well marked and I am told that, sometimes, there is no cairn marking the trail to Circlestone.  If you are desperate to get there, look-up some excellent hiking directions available on the web.  I have even found the circle on GoogleEarth, since I know where to look.  If you like a challenge and the adventure,  go from the directions the Searcher gave me.

Four Peaks from Circlestone

From the fire line trail, the unmarked branch to Circlestone climbs steeply and follows a ridge through Alligator juniper, punctuated by stalks of century plant, to a broad way that rises to Circlestone as though to a monument overgrown by the same juniper.

My Circlestone Mystery

There was an unusual experience on our first trip, on this portion of the trail.  We were winding through the Juniper and, as it happened, Diane fell behind.  After awhile I missed her and waited and, after a minute, went back to look for her.  I found Diane sobbing uncontrollably, deep in grief over our father who passed away eleven years before.  We talked about it until she felt better.  She said it was as though a door opened and she could feel out father.  What makes this exceptional is Diane is not given to anything like this and I ascribe her deep grief to the nature of the site.  It is a mystery to this day.

At Circlestone, that first trip, we explored and experienced the site.  You cannot see the entire wall at any point and need to wander through and over it, being careful not to disturb anything.  Here and there, in the outer wall, are openings like the one in this photograph.

Site-Hole in the Circlestone Wall

At Circlestone

I call it a site hole because, on your knees, it is possible to look through and see the distant view through the trees.  As you can see, the stones are a striking red color with green lichen growing thick.

On the second trip in November, knowing the way and having great weather, I brought my cameras to capture the exceptional views, one of which is above.  I’d dearly love to come back to camp just below the ruin and do some work in the evening and morning light.  For now, I can enjoy those views from Castle Dome.

Three Horsemen and Castle Dome

Can you see the dome in the middle distance.  I did a portrait of three horsemen who road up to Circlestone in November.  We came to know them pretty well, that afternoon and the following morning down in the valley.

Three Horsemen

I carted up a tripod, so you can see Diane and I in the same spot.

Mike and Diane at Circlestone
Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved

Typha

cattails

These two views of Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity across Sapsucker Woods Pond on a March afternoon are separated by 12 months, a year. Wilson Trail, Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York.

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2023 using the IPhone 14 ProMax triple camera, raw format, edited on the phone

In the foreground is the cattail plant, the North American species Typha latifolia.  There are over 30 species in this useful genera. 

2022 using the IPhone 7 back camera

Culinary

Many parts of the Typha plant are edible to humans. Before the plant flowers, the tender inside of the shoots can be squeezed out and eaten raw or cooked. The starchy rhizomes are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. They can be processed into flour with 266 kcal per 100 grams and are most often harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are fibrous, and the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers.  Baby shoots emerging from the rhizomes, which are sometimes subterranean, can be picked and eaten raw. Also underground is a carbohydrate lump which can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked like a potato. The plant is one championed by survival experts because various parts can be eaten throughout the year. Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate lead and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten.

The rind of young stems can be peeled off, and the tender white heart inside can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus. This food has been popular among the Cossacks in Russia and has been called “Cossack asparagus.” The leaf bases can be eaten raw or cooked, especially in late spring when they are young and tender. In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener.

Agriculture

The seeds have a high linoleic acid content and can be used to feed cattle and chickens. They can also be found in African countries like Ghana.

Harvesting cattail removes nutrients from the wetland that would otherwise return via the decomposition of decaying plant matter.  Floating mats of cattails remove nutrients from eutrophic bodies of freshwater.

Building material

For local native tribes around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, Typha were among the most important plants and every part of the plant had multiple uses. For example, they were used to construct rafts and other boats.

During World War II, the United States Navy used the down of Typha as a substitute for kapok in life vests and aviation jackets. Tests showed that even after 100 hours of submersion, the buoyancy was still effective.

Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or stone wool.

Paper

Typha stems and leaves can be used to make paper. It is strong with a heavy texture and it is hard to bleach, so it is not suitable for industrial production of graphical paper. In 1853, considerable amounts of cattail paper were produced in New York, due to a shortage of raw materials.[33] In 1948, French scientists tested methods for annual harvesting of the leaves. Because of the high cost, these methods were abandoned, no further research was done. Today Typha is used to make decorative paper.

Fiber

Fibers up to 4 meters long can be obtained from the stems when they are treated mechanically or chemically with sodium hydroxide. The stem fibers resemble jute and can be used to produce raw textiles. The leaf fibers can be used as an alternative to cotton and linen in clothing. The yield of leaf fiber is 30 to 40 percent and Typha glauca can produce 7 to 10 tons per hectare annually.

Biofuel

Typha can be used as a source of starch to produce ethanol. Because of their high productivity in northern latitudes, Typha are considered to be a bioenergy crop.

Other

The seed hairs were used by some indigenous peoples of the Americas[which?] as tinder for starting fires. Some tribes also used Typha down to line moccasins, and for bedding, diapers, baby powder, and cradleboards. One Native American word for Typha meant “fruit for papoose’s bed”. Typha down is still used in some areas to stuff clothing items and pillows. Typha can be dipped in wax or fat and then lit as a candle, the stem serving as a wick. Without the use of wax or fat it will smolder slowly, somewhat like incense, and may repel insects.

The flower stalks can be made into chopsticks. The leaves can be treated to weave into baskets, mats, or sandals. The rushes are harvested and the leaves often dried for later use in chair seats. Re-wetted, the leaves are twisted and wrapped around the chair rungs to form a densely woven seat that is then stuffed (usually with the left over rush).

Small-scale experiments have indicated that Typha are able to remove arsenic from drinking water.[37][38] The boiled rootstocks have been used as a diuretic for increasing urination, or mashed to make a jelly-like paste for sores, boils, wounds, burns, scabs, and smallpox pustules.

Cattail pollen is used as a banker source of food for predatory insects and mites (such as Amblyseius swirskii) in greenhouses. The cattail, or, as it is commonly referred to in the American Midwest, the sausage tail, has been the subject of multiple artist renditions, gaining popularity in the mid-twentieth century. The term, sausage tail, derives from the similarity that cattails have with sausages, a name given to the plant by the Midwest Polish community who had noticed a striking similarity between the plant and a common Polish dish, kiełbasa. 

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Nature and Big Names

barns by other names

View of Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity from an unnamed boardwalk on an unnamed path from the parking lot. Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

From an unnamed boardwalk on an unnamed path from the parking lot. Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

An iced over, thawing in the March sunshine, leads to a view of Kip’s Barn that, I believe, is named for Austin Kiplinger (Cornell Graduate of 1939) the longest serving trustee in Cornell history.

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Stippling

After the farm

All photographs are from the Apple IPhone 14 ProMax, raw format and perfected on the phone.

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I wanted a shot of manifold vertical lines. I think the landscape orientation develops the texture of snow stippling. The elevated wooden walkway traverses wetland, these young trees established on slightly higher ground.

Portrait orientation emphasizes these young trees reach for the sun, rising from former farmland, off West Trail

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Holding On

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Elms throughout the understory of Sapsucker Woods provide late autumn golden color, here on the West Trail after snowfall, holding on until spring. Cornell University Lab of Ornithology Sapsucker Woods, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York

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Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Home to Birds and Trees

Fuertes Bird Sanctuary / Renwick Wood

This large sign found along the Cayuga Waterfront Trial at the entrance to Renwick Woods. It provides the origin story (floodplain, delta of Fall Creek), how it came to be conserved and the importance of the place to birds.

The original entrance to the Fuertes Bird Sanctuary, now called Renwick Wood, was marked by this arch, designed by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, dedicated June 10, 1917.

The professor was born February 7, 1874, at Ithaca, the son of Prof. Estevan Antonio and Mary Stone (Perry) Fuertes. He was graduated by Cornell with the degree of A.B., in 1897, and married Margaret F. Sumner of Ithaca, in 1904. Since 1898 he had been a painter of birds.

Professor Fuentes illustrated such volumes as “Birding on a Broncho,” “Citizen Bird,” Song Birds and “Water Fowls.” His permanent work included habitat groups in the American Museum of Natural History; 25 decorative panels for F.M. Brewster, at New Haven, Conn., birds of New York at the State Museum, Albany; murals in the Flamingo Hotel, at Miami, Fla., paintings for the New York Zoological Society, Bronx. (Source: Find a Grave)

Misshapen tree trunk on the shore of Fall Creek, Renwick Woods

The flowers of this small shrub identify it as a member of the Rose family. The berries I captured in the following photograph are edible (non-poisonous), though astringent. Autumn time, the leaves turn red. It is native to eastern North America. I found these berrys along the Renwick Wood trail.

A pair of Mallard ducks foraging along a Fall Creek bayou on the edge of Renwick Woods where Stewart Park begins.

Ithaca Fire Department was training at their facility on Pier Road, next to Newman Golf Course, and across Fall Creek from Renwick Woods.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Happening on Cayuga Lake

Wave Riders

Pam and I have sailed past Crowbar Point, the arm of land projecting into the lake on left, so we know this end of Cayuga Lake well. The lake reach northward is deceiving as the bulk of the 39-mile reach is north of the headlands of the west lakeshore visible in the distance as the apparent end of the lake.

I love the pale blue of late February / early March skies.

Also known as White Willow, for the white undersides of the leaves that flash in the wind. These flourish on the southernmost shore of Cayuga Lake.

Here is a video of a large gathering of Canadian Geese, multitudes landing to ride lake waves on an unsettled, windy March afternoon.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Golden Willows

Stewart Park

Among the earliest plants to flower, brilliant yellow willows (Salix alba ‘Tristis’) are glorious early spring as new growth sprouts.

Willows native to New York State are all shrub-like, the homeland of these large trees is Europe and Asia.

Also known as White Willow, for the white undersides of the leaves that flash in the wind. These flourish on the southernmost shore of Cayuga Lake.

Willow bark does NOT have analgesic properties. The genus name, Salix, is the root for acetylsalicylic acid (aka aspirin), a chemical that does not appear in nature, originally synthesized from salicylic acid extracted from Meadowsweet.

Movement of budding willow branches in a north wind off Cayuga Lake

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Musclewood

Memorial

Another Cayuga Waterfront Trail stop is this memorial. The plaque reads ” ‘Grandpa’ (Ironwood) Trees in memory of John A. ‘Jack’ Dougherty; June 15, 1927 – March 12, 1995; City of Ithaca 1949-1989, Retired as Superintendent of Public Works.” Located near the intersection of Pier Road and Willow Avenue, Newman Golf Course, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York. That is an Ironwood tree, midgound center.

The American Hornbeam (scientific name: Carpinus caroliniana) is also known as Musclewood for the rippled surface of the mature trunk. Other names are blue-beech, ironwood and muscle beech.

Nestled on the trunk……

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Goal Achieved

Here and There

This week I hiked the entire waterfront trail from end to end, just not in one day.

Informational Signage at the Ithaca Farmers Market.

Ithaca has competitions for the honor of decorating storage buildings, electrical boxes and other urban accoutrements.

The Ithaca Farmers Markets is a venue for local farmers, artists and others, on the shore of Cayuga Lake and a stop on the Waterfront Trail.

Generations of children enjoyed this figure while turning and round on this now discarded spinner.

Stewart Park, Ithaca, New York

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved